Quality assurance is a vital part of the food industry, playing a role in both its sustainability and continued growth as well as strengthening the relationships that food brands cultivate with their audiences.
But if it’s such an integral and longstanding part of the industry, why is food safety such a hot topic all of a sudden?
And how has Ingredient Brothers risen to the call for increased quality assurance processes?
Let’s find out.
Why is quality assurance (QA) so important in food manufacturing?
Over the past decade, the consumer market has grown more aware of the journeys that lie behind the products they consume. From harmful chemical use to deforestation to human rights to nutritional benefits – more than ever in the past, these factors (and more) are on the minds of consumers as they walk down grocery aisles.
This is in great part thanks to the increased and necessary focus on sustainability that multiple sectors have taken, but also because of the knowledge sharing and awareness creation that is realized through social media platforms.
At the same time, the food industry, and especially wholesale and bulk importers and sourcing partners have had to adopt an equal measure of awareness.
Since COVID-19, the focus on food safety has also drastically increased on an operational level, where the demand for greater transparency and compliance was introduced to every stage of food manufacturing – from harvesting and importing to packaging and logistics. As such, the adoption of third-party quality standards and robust food safety systems have become the norm throughout the food industry.
This is where quality assurance comes into play. The role of the QA department is to establish a systematic and planned process to achieve the goal of offering customers safe, legally compliant, authentic products of the highest quality. As you can imagine, this can evolve into a rather meticulous and strenuous endeavor in the wholesale importer and bulk sourcing markets.
Quality assurance typically operates in the back end, with most people only ever seeing the front end or the end result. And that’s the way it should be if done right. However, it’s important for buyers to be able to recognize and evaluate the extensive and rigorous evaluation process the product has gone through, including thorough documentation reviews by the QA department, before reaching the finish line.
What goes into the implementation of quality assurance systems?
The QA department’s job is to establish systems and processes for worst-case scenarios, such as product recalls or customer complaints. That means we work with the assumption that there is no silver lining around the dark cloud.
Our responsibilities start with the creation of food safety systems that will support and secure the bulk supply chain, and extend to the implementation, verification of effectiveness, and the updating or improving of these systems over time.
These systems are involved in all aspects of food operations, from vendor operations, product evaluation, and approvals to the shipping and warehousing of products, including the investigation of any product non-conformances (an aspect that easily goes unaddressed in wholesale orders).
For us working in the wholesale market, these systems include our recall program, dedicated customer complaint programs, and detailed supplier approval processes that streamline the selection of vendors and suppliers.
These systems also establish criteria for vendor selection, which includes evaluating the vendor’s own QA processes and safety practices. This helps ensure that the suppliers provide high-quality products.
Why does ingredient brothers source its QA team as carefully as our ingredients?
The quality of the ingredient brothers QA team is as crucial as the quality of the ingredients we source.
Having a team with a strong background in and panoramic understanding of the food industry provides us with a significant advantage in our interactions with vendors and customers. Years of industry experience, including previous roles on the vendor side of things, help us understand our vendors’ products and their process controls based on the documents and procedures that are submitted.
What skills are required to make Quality Assurance effective?
QA teams influence over more than just compliance, they are overseers of an entire journey. So to make sure we work with the most adept individuals, we screen and cultivate our QA staff according to these key points:
- Improved Communication: Due to the technical nature of the processes we work with, which is often beyond the ken of anyone outside of the QA department, we communicate technical information to our customers and vendors through an expert. This just leads to an improved and streamlined working relationship.
- Timely Issue Resolution: A proficient QA team is equipped to identify and address quality issues promptly. And to approach risks and resolutions with transparency. By maintaining open lines of communication with our vendors, we can collaboratively resolve issues, reducing disruptions to the supply chain.
- Enhanced Collaboration: Our QA professionals work closely with vendors to improve safety systems and QA processes. This collaboration fosters a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration, creating a synergy that benefits both parties and ultimately leads to better products.
Which qualifications and experiences are required for the ingredient brothers QA team?
The impact of quality assurance is determined largely by efforts built on soft skills, but the position does come with its own set of qualifications and experience requirements, as with any other position:
- A bachelor’s or advanced degree in food science, quality control/assurance, or a related field.
- Several years of experience in quality assurance roles in the food industry.
- In-depth knowledge of food safety regulations, quality standards, and audit procedures.
- Strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and a commitment to upholding the highest quality standards.
It’s not a jack-of-all-trades position by any measure, and with good reason. At ingredient brothers, we recognize that the quality of our team has a direct impact on the quality of our vendor relationships and, consequently, the quality of the ingredients we provide.
Our rigorous hiring and training processes ensure that we have highly qualified, experienced, and committed professionals who are dedicated to upholding the highest quality standards in the industry. This commitment is integral to our mission of delivering top-quality ingredients to our customers.
The impact of Quality Assurance on vendor relationships and the future of food safety
Every link in the supply chain has a role to play. As bulk and wholesale importers, we serve as the bridge connecting customers to the appropriate vendors who can meet their standards and requirements. And quality assurance (QA) plays a pivotal role in those bridging relationships.
It’s not just about ensuring the quality of the products provided by vendors but also about building trust and transparency. When vendors consistently meet or exceed the established standards and requirements, it fosters a sense of reliability and dependability. This, in turn, lays the foundation for long-lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships. High-quality products also lead to higher customer satisfaction, benefiting both our business and the vendor’s reputation.
You can see why quality assurance has to be a proactive process always evolving to meet new requirements.
The consequences of inadequate quality assurance extend beyond immediate financial losses and legal liabilities; they can have a lasting impact on public health, brand reputation, and the overall sustainability of a company. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize and continually improve QA processes to mitigate these risks.
But upholding food safety standards is a collaborative effort. It’s not about imposing regulations on vendors; it’s about working together to identify areas for improvement and sustained quality assurance. Regular feedback and open communication channels are the conductors of this journey, where vendors are made collaborative partners in the process of raising the bar for quality and food safety.
Get a glimpse of the extensive quality assurance processes our QA team oversees on our Bulk Products Catalog page. Or set up a call with us to find out how you can become part of this journey we’re on.